MIAMI (CBSMiami) – If you have a bought a car recently chances are it came with something called a fob. Fobs allow you to open your doors and even start your car without inserting a key. Now, CBS4 is learning the convenient technology could be the key for thieves to get into your car–without having to break-in.READ MORE: Report: 25 AR-15 Rifles Missing From Miami Police Department's Inventory
The videos are alarming. A man walks up to a locked car in Long Beach, tugs on the handle and it opens. Near San Francisco another thief breaks into a locked Audi with ease and makes off with an expensive bike.
Another video in Chicago is similar; a thief jumps in, steals a bunch of stuff from the car and takes off, never prying or breaking into the car.
“The knee-jerk reaction was for me to be angry,” Mike Shin said.
Shin is positive his car was locked. Angry he posted the video of the incident online to learn 78 other cars in his neighborhood had been broken into in similar fashion. The police were just as confused as he.
“They looked at my footage and were like ‘We have absolutely no idea what this is, we’ve never even heard of it. This is the first we’re ever even seeing of it,” Shin said.
Miami-based hacker James Ball knew exactly what we were talking about when CBS4’s David Sutta asked.READ MORE: Broward Transit Resumes Collecting Bus Fares On June 1st
“It can take me from a few minutes to like three – four hours,” Ball said. The technology has been on the hacking market for a couple of years. From his perspective, the days of smashing windows to get into a car are gone “No. Why would you want to do that anyway? There is glass everywhere,” Ball chuckled.
To understand how these fobs are being hacked you first have to understand how they work. Your car sends out a signal when your fob is about a foot away. The car will unlock automatically or start when the fob is close enough. But if the fob was, say, 20 feet away, that car door wouldn’t open–and it definitely won’t start. It’s smart technology. What authorities believe the thieves are doing is using something called a power extender. They are extending the range of the cars signal. So rather than looking for a fob a few feet away it can reach a fob hundreds of feet away, say in your house. The car is tricked into thinking you and your key are right at the door.
We asked Ball if the hacking device is being used in South Florida. Ball didn’t even hesitate with a response.
“Oh I’m sure it’s here in South Florida. I mean every crime is probably in South Florida. We are probably one of the pioneers of it too!”
CBS4 asked various South Florida law enforcement agencies if they have seen these devices. Simply put they don’t know. The only way to truly know is for the crime to be caught on tape and be absolutely sure the car was locked.
Ball said the technology to hack fobs can be as much as $1200 and it’s not easy.
“You have to know what you do. You have to know how to run the program. You have to be patient too because sometimes it can take a few hours to brute force a code,” Ball said.
So what are fob owners to do? Ball believes the easiest way around this is to actually avoid it altogether. “Just don’t make your car a target. Don’t leave your stuff in there, GPS. Don’t leave your stuff visible at least.” he said. Car experts are actually recommending storing your fob in your freezer. Yes, your freezer.MORE NEWS: ‘Just Really Shaken Up’: CBS4 Crew Attacked On South Beach While Working Story About Efforts To Cut Down On Violence There
The ice box will block the fob and your car from communicating. There is another way around this. Most trunks are equipped with a switch like this that require you to insert a key to open it. Also if you’ve been driving for 20 to 30 years you may remember something called The Club. It is still for sale at auto stores. Once attached to your car, even if the hacker gets in, they won’t be able to drive away.